By John Byrne |
Mayor Richard Daley said Friday that government needs to get out of the
convention business and consider more changes to rules at McCormick
Place than those suggested by an interim board running the troubled
“I believe you’re going to rent the space out.
You’re going to rent the space out, a person comes in, takes the space,
and he or she — that organization — contracts everything out,” Daley
said. “The only thing McCormick Place is sent is one bill for rent.
They’re responsible for all their contracts and subcontracts, and all
the workers that deal with that convention, and not McCormick Place.”
“Get out of that business. (McCormick Place) should be basically a shell,” he said at a news conference to welcome a biotechnology trade show McCormick Place will host early next month. “And the only thing we do is PR. The only thing we do is sell and bring conventions here, and basically the operation is the show manager running those shows, and not McCormick Place.
“This is all part of the market,” he said. “They get their own contractors, subcontractors, they get their own workers, they do everything for the show, and McCormick Place does nothing except rent the space. We cannot get back into the old ways of doing business.”
Daley said he doesn’t expect the interim board’s recommendations to be the final word on the future of the convention center. “I think there will be a lot of suggestions,” he said. “I’m hearing from a lot of show managers that came in, different conventions. They want to be able to make more recommendations about how they can compete in a global way and a national way to keep the conventions here.”
Without significant changes, McCormick Place will not be able to compete, the mayor said.
“If they don’t, then you’re back to sending bills from McCormick Place,” he said.
“If you get a bill from McCormick Place, this costs you $50, right here,” Daley said, holding up a bottle of water. “Just to bring these four bottles here, and you look at it and say ‘$50? I could bring it in myself,’ but you can’t.”
The high cost of mounting a large convention at McCormick Place was driven home by Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization. Greenwood said his members love holding their annual event in Chicago, but would need to take the expense of McCormick Place into account before returning.
“The competition is stiff, and we have to take a variety of factors into consideration, and one of them is cost,” Greenwood said as Daley and Gov. Pat Quinn looked on.
“Certainly, Chicago is an expensive place to hold a convention. It’s inordinately expensive, and that will be a consideration in the future,” Greenwood said. ”If it becomes less expensive to bring a convention to Chicago, we’ll be more likely to come back.”
Gov. Pat Quinn said the recommendations of the interim board should be considered before any decisions are made.
Among other things, the interim board recommended that McCormick Place trade shows could choose their own electrical service, order food from outside the building, deal with fewer unions and potentially do more of their own booth setup. The recommendations are aimed at cutting exhibitors’ costs, a white-hot issue that has sent a couple of shows packing for lower-cost cities.
“It’s an important issue,” Quinn said Friday. “These conventions are job farms,” he continued. “They’re opportunities for our state economy and our local economy. So I think it’s still too early to tell what the best blueprint for the future is. I think saving money — I’ve worked with the mayor on that — is a very important mission. Also, it’s important that we show Illinois, and Chicago, to the world in a positive light.”
Referring to Daley’s idea, Quinn said, “I think it’s a point of view that needs to be taken into account. The mayor’s an important person. But I think we have a specific interim board that was set up to take testimony and have hearings about this matter, and I think it’s important to hear from them, too.”